Monday, October 4, 2010

Flash Memories at the IATEFL Poland Conference, Bydgoszcz

First, I would like to thank those of you who made an honest attempt to kidnap me so that I could stay in Poland. Despite my efforts to remain in that wonderful country, I still had to return to Paris on September 20th just after the IATEFL Poland Bydgoszcz conference.

It was a spectacular event. All IATEFL Poland conferences are. What I appreciate most is the enthusiasm for veteran speakers (e.g. IATEFL Global President, Herbert Puchta) but also an openness to accept newer speakers who are just beginning to get their “conference sea legs.” Conferences shouldn’t be just talent shows, but environments where anyone can share information in their own style of communication.  That’s what I witnessed this year.  I would like to send a special thank you to those who supported my friend and colleague Vice President of TESOL France, Debbie West.  She hadn’t spoken in front of an audience for 16 years and chose your conference to get back in the habit of public speaking. Un grand merci a vous tous!

What IATEFL Poland conferences reveal is that its members all have such a passion for their trade as English teachers. They all work so incredibly hard! We are all on a relentless quest for satisfaction in our classes. I often say that I have 150 children – adults included – who I help explore and excavate the English language. I’m sure you all have your “kids” too. And it’s thanks to conferences and associations like IATEFL Poland that help you provide the highest quality of guidance and instruction. Moreover, Anna Rogalewicz-Gałucka has got to be the best conference planner on the planet. And the hard work of the dedicated volunteers leaves me awestruck. As the volunteer president of TESOL France, I can say I receive as much as I give being on the Executive Committee: the friendships, the personal and professional growth, the input, the fine-tuning of communication skills, all of which I put back into my classes. I truly feel all teachers should try being on an association committee at least once.  The rewards are countless.

Quelle histoire d’amour!
The town tour of Bydgoszcz was most interesting and revealed the enchanted history of the city. What a fantastic idea! Who knew that the history of Bydgoszcz is jam-packed with: lovers! And all sorts of love stories both humorous and tragic. Our guide donned a traditional costume and took us back in time to the medieval adventures of the citizens. The tour revealed the shear beauty of the Venice of Poland.

Pecha Kuchas and Tweets
I found dozing in the train back home impossible because the memory flashes kept bubbling up to the surface like voda gazovana. Especially when I thought of the fun we all had during the Pecha Kuchas.  Lindsay Clandfield introduced a fantastic, if not slightly lunatic, lineup (Jamie Keddie, Geoff Tranter and myself).  From crazy teacher inventions to Polish tongue twisters, the standing-room-only event is one I’m sure you will see again at future IATEFL Poland conferences.  A special thank you to Magda Klys, Jarosław Kawałek and Peter Whiley for your help with Chrząszcz (pronounced: Hshon'shch).

And finally IATEFL Poland has been introduced to Twitter! The tweets and tweeting during the conference made it easier to get the juice out of more talks (e.g. I was tweeting during David. A. Hill’s talk while Lindsay Clandfield tweeted during Vicki Hollet’s and all our followers online got to read about the best of both).  And there are now more “tweeps” after this conference. Consider following those who were there: Peter Whiley of IATEFL Poland (@iateflPoland); Jamie Keddie (@cheimi10); Vicki Hollett (@vickihollet) Paul Maglione (@paulmaglione); Lindsay Clandfield (@lclandfield); Veronika Salandyk (@weronika_sal) Marta Mrozik (@martulmj); Klaudia Skutela (@kskutela); Ron Mukerji (@Englodysiac) and me: @bethcagnol

Welcome Home
Did you know that Poland looks just like my native Virginia, USA? I feel at home in Poland with the added linguistic gymnastics Polish has to offer. My experience hearing Polish is a bit like listening to a recorded message backwards. From time to time, a word or phrase that’s slightly comprehensible jumps out at me. The language is so musical and seems to dance off the lips. It’s a language I can enjoy not understanding. It’s a language one must smile to speak. The covered vowels, the kissed consonants pull me onto the dance floor. Envious, I can only stand there and watch.

But dance I did this time.  I learned so much. I can only sink into an infatuated state when two people start a rapid-fire conversation in Polish next to me, or when a TLK train rolls into the station or when I listen to a Chopin nocturne.  Poland, you are my muse.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Prepare for the Worst and Get Paid

They are out there: the language schools that subcontract you and test your patience by innocently forgetting to pay you or outright ignoring your demands for payment.  You could have shown up on time, worked 35-contact-hour work weeks, signed those presence sheets, sent those invoices but the money just doesn't appear in your bank account.  A language school that is late on their payments does deserve a good, long, contemplative chin rub. They could be delaying your payment because the trainees' company hasn't paid them. Or they could also be in serious financial trouble. But in the end, language establishment directors who are late on payments should be hung by their baby toes.

In this post, I've provided three letters, in French, that go from "poor sad me I need the money" to the more firm: "remember, stupid, I haven't been paid" to the nasty "I'm going to sue if you don't pay me."  Hopefully, they will help you prepare for the worst and save you a few cents on rope for the occasional baby-toe hanging.

Letter 1) Poor Sad Me I Need the Money
Your logo, Your address, name, company, Number, SIRET, etc.

Rappel Concernant les Factures
no (list of unpaid invoices)

Client No :
Adresse de facturation :
(address of your client)

Au (date), nous n'avons pas reçu le paiement :
● de la facture (invoice number) du (date on the invoice) pour un montant de (total on the invoice) TTC,
● de la facture (invoice number) du (date on the invoice) pour un montant de (total on the invoice) TTC,
● de la facture (invoice number) du (date on the invoice) pour un montant de (total on the invoice) TTC,

Nous nous permettons de vous adresser une copie de ces factures et vous serions très reconnaissants si vous pouviez régler ces factures par retour, par virement ou par cheque libellé à l’ordre de (your name). Si vous avez réglé ces factures très récemment, merci de ne pas tenir compte de ce courrier.

More firm letter 2) Remember, Stupid, I Haven't Been Paid (NB: This one is sent registered)
Your Address
Their address
(City), le (Date)
Objet : défaut de paiement
Monsieur ________________,
Je me permets de vous écrire concernant le défaut de paiement de (number of hours) heures de travaux dirigés dispensées du (start date) au (end date) aux étudiants de (title of the students or stagiaires).

A ce jour je n’ai pas été payée pour ces enseignements.

Je comprends que les procédures administratives puissent prendre du temps. Toutefois, le délai de paiement me paraît singulièrement long. Depuis plusieurs mois (or weeks), j’essaie de comprendre pourquoi ces heures n’ont pas été mises en paiement.

(if you've received an email that seems fishy) Le (date), (name of person who told you you wouldn’t be paid) m’a envoyé un e‐mail dont le texte est (copy and paste the email or letter). Cet e‐mail n’explique en rien les raisons du retard. En outre, loin de s’en excuser, il me semble que la mise en paiement elle‐même est maintenant remise en cause puisque « (quote from letter that gives impression they don’t know when you will be paid) ».

J’estime que cette manière d’agir est contraire aux bonnes pratiques des affaires.

(if you choose to threaten to quit) Dans ces conditions, j’ai informé (name of department or director) que je renonçais désormais à collaborer avec eux. Je le regrette vivement. Par la présente, je vous demande de bien vouloir ordonner la mise en paiement des (number of hours) heures que j’ai dispensées dans votre établissement.

J’attire votre attention sur le fait que la situation perdure depuis plus d’un an (or number of months or weeks) et que ce courrier est une ultime action amiable avant l’engagement d’une action contentieuse.

Je vous prie d’agréer, Monsieur (name) l’expression de mes salutations distinguées.
(Your Name)
(Your Title)
P.J. : Copie de l’état récapitulatif du service prévisionnel (copy of the contract or signatures of your classes)

Nasty Letter 3) I'm Going to Sue if You Don't Pay Me. (NB: it's also sent registered)
Your Address
Their address
(City), le (date)

Monsieur __________,
J’ai dispensé (number) heures de travaux dirigés dispensées du (start date) au (end date) aux étudiants de (title of the class, or students or « stagiaires »).

Le (date you asked for payment) courant, je vous ai écrit pour vous faire part de ces éléments et vous demander d’ordonner la mise en paiement.

A ce jour je n’ai toujours pas été payée pour ces enseignements.

Par la présente, je suis au regret de devoir vous mettre en demeure de me faire parvenir la somme de (how much they owe you) euros (write out the number lexically in French) sous (number of days) jours, faut de quoi j’agirai par voie de droit pour obtenir le paiement de la créance et le remboursement des frais engagés.

Comptant sur votre diligence, je vous prie d’agréer, Monsieur le Président, l’expression de mes salutations distinguées.
(Your name)
(Your title)

P.J. : Copie du courrier du (date of the first and second letters you sent)

I was brought up to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.  This applies to your life and your home. As a professional it applies to your job, your presentations and your projects. As a teacher, it applies to your classes. As a freelance teacher, it applies to your clients, your taxes and most importantly...your paycheck.